Parainfluenza in Dogs

Dog influenza (canine parainfluenza virus) is a highly contagious virus that is commonly spread among dogs in social or confined areas. Today, our East Setauket vets share the typical symptoms of parainfluenza in dogs, the causes and what you can do to protect your pup.

What is parainfluenza in dogs?

The respiratory symptoms of parainfluenza are similar to those seen in dogs with canine influenza, but the viruses are very different and require different treatments and vaccinations. Both of these viruses are however found to spread quickly around highly social areas such as kennels and dog races or events.

The parainfluenza virus infection is a highly contagious viral lung infection that can cause infectious tracheobronchitis, also known as 'kennel cough.'

What symptoms accompany dog parainfluenza?

The severity or intensity of the parainfluenza dog symptoms may vary depending on the age of the infected dog and the host's immune system. Here are some of the most common symptoms experienced with dog parainfluenza:

  • Coughing - This can be either a dry cough or moist and productive (can include blood)
  • Low-grade fever
  • Discharge from the nose - This can be mucus, pus or even blood
  • Decreased energy
  • Decreased appetite

Note that the virus itself can be a component of other canine respiratory diseases, most notably kennel cough, Bordetella, and canine adenovirus-2.

What causes parainfluenza in dogs?

Parainfluenza is a highly contagious viral disease which is transmitted through the air via droplets from the infected dog. This means that it can easily make its way around facilities infecting dogs as they breathe and interact with objects that infected dogs have used.

The parainfluenza virus is related to canine distemper and shares respiratory symptoms, including a dry, hacking cough and inflammation of the larynx, bronchial tubes, and trachea. Puppies and older adult canines with compromised immune systems are at higher risk. Because of the thick secretions produced by throat irritation, toy breeds are also more susceptible to pneumonia.

This virus is still able to linger in the air for up to two weeks possibly infecting other dogs even after the previously affected dogs have healed.

How will your vet diagnose parainfluenza? 

The vet will require a detailed history from you. The parainfluenza virus is easily spread in boarding kennels, grooming salons, and other places where a large number of dogs congregate. It is critical to provide information about your pet's whereabouts within 2 to 4 weeks of the first symptoms in your family pet.

A health history and vaccination history will be required. Any contact with other canines, regardless of the environment in which that contact occurred, could be part of the infective process, so provide as much detail as possible.

The veterinarian will perform a physical examination, as well as some diagnostics like blood tests, cultures, and testing of fluid and tissue samples. He may also need to use imaging techniques such as radiography (x-ray) to determine whether there are any masses or parasitic involvement. Once all of the testing results have been received and analyzed, a treatment plan will be developed and implemented.

How is parainfluenza in dogs treated?

Because the virus is highly contagious to other canines, your vet is unlikely to recommend hospitalization unless the situation is dire. Instead of hospitalization, your veterinarian may make management recommendations, which will most likely include:

  • Recommendations for healthy eating, hygiene, and nursing care
  • Recommendations for corrective action for any environmental factors suspected of being contributors
  • Cough suppressants containing codeine derivatives should be used only for long-term, ineffective cough relief.
  • Severe chronic cases may necessitate antibiotics such as cephalosporins, quinolones, chloramphenicol, and tetracycline; the appropriate antibiotic medication will most likely be chosen based on the results of the cultures taken and analyzed.
  • Some treatment options may include bronchodilator pretreatment followed by aerosolization treatments.

Can you help protect your dog against viruses such as parainfluenza?

Yes, there is. At Setauket Animal Hospital, we give dogs the DA2PP (Distemper, Adenovirus Type 2 (Hepatitis), Parvo, and Parainfluenza) vaccine. Your dog will need a schedule of booster shots in the first year of their life. After that, it is highly recommended to schedule your dog's annual vaccinations and routine exams to protect them from parainfluenza and a host of other diseases too.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned that your dog may be at risk of conditions such as parainfluenza? Contact our East Setauket vets today to schedule a visit for your pup's routine vaccinations.